We rely on our air conditioner systems to keep our indoor temperatures cool during the hotter summer months. But, when the weather turns colder, we don’t need the AC anymore, and we tend to forget all about it until next year. At this time, a common question we receive from our clients is, “Do I need to cover my AC unit after summer?”. In this article, we will address this question and look at some ways to protect your air conditioner unit when it’s not in regular use.

Do I Need To Cover My AC Unit?

The first thing to note is that an AC unit is designed to be operated outdoors. So, it is capable of withstanding weather conditions outside with few problems. But, at certain times of the year, it can be more prone to damage, and it should be protected. We will cover when you need to cover your AC unit below and why in a little more detail. For now, it’s just important to realize that you should cover the AC unit with a special cover that you can find at most good home improvement stores. Let’s take a look at those crucial summer months when the air conditioning system is working hardest.

Do I Need to Cover My AC Unit During Summer?

No, the AC unit needs to be uncovered and kept clear in order to remove the heat from your home. Many people believe that their air conditioner cools their home, but this is incorrect. The AC system moves refrigerant liquid under pressure through the home like a circulatory system. This process is ongoing, and it will occur multiple times every single day. The refrigerant absorbs the heat and moves it outdoors, where it can be vented into the air. If the outdoor unit is covered, blocked, or obstructed in any way, this can make the process far less efficient. This can lead to a lack of performance and energy efficiency. For this reason, it’s advisable to avoid covering the AC unit and to take other steps to keep the area clear. If you have trees or shrubs that are growing near the unit they should be trimmed back by a few feet. If you have items, such as ladders, tools, garden furniture, and others stacked around the unit, they should be stored elsewhere. When the outdoor AC unit is kept clear, it will ensure easy access during essential maintenance.

Do I Need to Cover My AC Unit During Fall?

Yes, this is a good idea because fall is a time when nature begins the renewal process, and a lot of material is released into the environment. During fall, it’s pretty common to have a lot of dead leaves and fallen branches that seem to accumulate everywhere. Even if you don’t have a yard with a lot of plant life, this organic material can still blow into the space with stronger winds. This material can get into your outdoor unit, and it may be wet from rain and the higher moisture content in the air. Because leaves, twigs, seeds, and branches are organic, they will rot over time. This is especially true if they are wet from rainfall or any pools of condensation in your outdoor AC unit. Rotting vegetation can be hard to clear away, but the moisture presents another problem. Although outdoor AC units are designed to operate outdoors, they can still be prone to internal corrosion. At first, you may notice smaller rust spots, but over time this can spread, and the entire enclosure will have holes in it. This can lead to an expensive repair bill or an earlier than expected replacement if the components are damaged.

Do I Need to Cover My AC Unit During Winter?

If the weather turns extreme, the general answer is yes. Many people believe that this is to prevent vermin and other critters from making a cozy home inside the unit. But, the main threat is from the accumulation of snow on top of the unit. When snow builds up and then melts, it will cause the water to enter the outdoor unit. This is a problem, but a bigger problem occurs if that water re-freezes later. There are sensitive components that can be damaged by the formation of ice inside the unit. When surfaces freeze, melt and re-freeze it can cause them to move apart and crack over time. This can lead to an expensive repair bill and an earlier than expected replacement. General winter weather conditions are less of a problem unless the temperatures go very low. Some people make do with a board weighed down with heavier objects that they lay across the top of the outdoor AC unit. This helps to prevent the thawing snow from entering the unit at the top.

When Should I Use an AC Unit Cover?

To recap, the only time when you really need to cover your outdoor AC unit is during the fall months. This is when the unit is especially vulnerable to organic matter and small objects that can damage the internal systems. One of the main issues to avoid is the accumulation of moisture inside the unit that can lead to corrosion.

We mentioned extra protection for your AC unit during the winter, but that would be under extreme weather conditions. If you routinely cover the unit, it is possible to create a new set of problems. Firstly, the cover will make the unit a prime location for critters that want to get out of the bad weather conditions. These animals will leave droppings and may damage the components leading to a repair bill. The second main issue would be that moisture already inside the unit will be trapped there. Again, this can lead to the development of corrosion that will damage the AC unit.

So, it makes good sense to get the cover out at the beginning of fall and cover the unit for the entire season. Then take it off again when winter arrives and only put it back on if the temperatures drop severely for a short time. If you want to avoid thawing snow getting inside the unit, just cover the top, which will allow the rest of the unit to “breathe.” This will make the unit less attractive for animals, and moisture can evaporate or drain away easily.

Before the start of each cooling season, it’s advisable to get your AC system checked out by your local heating and cooling specialist.